Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cleaning a dried gourd

I'm just about done with the scarf project, and so I'm moving on to my next requested work: a decorated gourd. My first step was to head out to the stash in my shed, and pick out a dried gourd. I brought it inside a couple of days ago, to give it time to adjust  from the baking desert heat out in the shed to the cool and somewhat more humid air in the house.

A raw gourd has a waxy coating on the outside of it, which needs to be removed so the dye can get to the rind of the gourd. I scrub the coating off with a copper kitchen scrubbie and some water. Sometimes you need to soak the gourd for a bit to loosen the coating. But you need to be careful not to soak too long, as the dry rind will swell and perhaps crack. And, a wet rind is softer and more fragile. But in this case, the waxy coating came off in about 20 minutes worth of scrubbing. (Sorry about the focus on the picture--I was paying more attention to the work than the documentation.)

I let the gourd sit for 24 hours after removing the waxy coating, to make sure it dried back out again. Because, again, wet gourd = more fragile gourd. Then I took it out to the garage, put my dust mask on (very important!! No mold spores in my lungs, thank you very much.) and used my little craft saw to carve open the top.

Inside is a mess of seeds and dried pulp.

I took my handy dandy scraper, and had at it. The insides went into a bucket, and were destined for the compost pile. If you don't have a scraper, various spoons work well. I used to use a grapefruit spoon.

You can get pretty far with just the scraper.

But I like power tools. This is a specialized sanding bit for my drill. You need to be really careful to keep a good hold on the gourd, and work very patiently. I've cracked more than one gourd on this step by letting things get battered around.

But you can see how it strips the rest of the dried white pulp coating off of the walls of the hard rind.

I did the same thing to the top of the gourd, so I had a lid for my future bowl. I'll probably sand the edges of the rim just a bit, and maybe sand down the inside of the bowl. But it is pretty much ready for the decorating part now.


  1. This was fascinating! I enjoyed seeing your lovely Etsy items too... You are so creative and talented in so many areas!

    Two questions: have you tried other methods for coloring your gourds? How did you decide on leather dyes?

    Also, have you tried using other fiber... Such as wool... For the textile work that you add to your gourds?


  2. I'm so glad you shared that because I had no idea how much was involved in this. I can't wait to see it after it's finished!

    One of my favorite things about visiting blogs is how much I'm always learning new things.

  3. Wow that is so cool!!!! I like all the tools involved! Except that you have to wear a dust mask for the mold :( , glad you're wearing a dust mask but I just knowing mold spores are being released lol.

  4. I always wondered what all was involved with prepping gourds for decorations. I'm going to pin this to my DIY! Thanks for sharing!

  5. This is fascinating to read! I hope you do a decorating one soon!

    I plan to grow luffa gourds when we move to our new house, so I can make my own shower luffas.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Tiffany Barry
    Freelance Copywriter
    Will Write 4 Food

  6. This is great, thanks! We always grow bird house gourds, but lose so many in the drying process. I am always eager to learn new techniques for prepping them for decoration.

  7. I had no idea that the prepping was so involved! Very interesting - thanks!

  8. Thanks for dropping in, all!

    Sojourner Design, the person who taught me used leather dye, an so that is what I started with. There are some awesome looking gourd specific dyes at , but I haven't coughed up the money for them yet. I'm seriously, seriously tempted though!

    I've tried felting around a gourd, and the result turned out pretty cool. However, next time I try it I need to seal the gourd so it doesn't soak up water in the felting process. When a dried gourd gets thoroughly soaked, you can rip the material easily with your hands. It becomes hard as it dries again, but it makes it challenging in the felting process, which involves lots of hot water and agitation. Hmmm...I wonder what would happen if I cleaned it out *after* I gave it a felt coat, so it was structurally stable during the felting process.....More things to try!

  9. will the mold cause interstitial lung disease?

    1. I don't know. I just know I don't want it in my lungs.

  10. Do you have to wear the mask? Is it a health hazard if you don't? Where can you find this out?

    1. I've been told there can be mold spoors inside the gourds, and I've seen some black stuff in various ones I've worked with. I'd much rather wear the mask and be safe than get mold into my lungs. I haven't researched it beyond that.

    2. Yes. The dust as well as the mould spores are highly toxic. I always prep mine outside on the back verandah.